It’s 7:05, and Bow Truss Coffee Roasters’ Lakeview shop has only been open a few minutes. The shop is empty, save for the barista behind the counter. The only sounds are the gentle hum of machinery and the Talking Heads on vinyl. In a few hours, though, the shop will be bustling. The few available seats will be filled, a line will form at the counter and the sound of conversation will flood the space – with intermittent hisses from the steam wand.
Community and good coffee are the heart of Bow Truss. Founder Philip Tadros wants his shops – Bow Truss’ other locations are in River North and Pilsen – to be hubs for customers to take a break from their day. He wants to get people talking, not working, when they visit Bow Truss. Each location is deliberately intimate, with limited space and seating. It’s nearly unavoidable to have a conversation with the person next to you, be that another customer, the barista or the vendors at the rotating pop-up shops, who offer local Chicago fare.
The coffee, though, speaks for itself. Dennis Jackson is the master roaster. “No one knows more about good coffee than Dennis,” Tadros says. “So he’s the boss.”
Dennis selects, sources and roasts the coffee. He travels to Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador and other locations to develop direct trade relationships with local farmers. Each blend has its own story and flavor profile.
El Roble, a small Costa Rican family farm, prepared the Costa Rica El Roble Microlot especially for Bow Truss using a pulped natural process. Pulped natural, also known as honey process, enhances the coffee’s natural sweetness, and this Costa Rica blend has an almost creamy sweet quality. This coffee is subtly fruity – with notes of white grape – and well suited for those who want a full-flavored cup that is not too intense.
For those who want to avoid fruity blends, the Hearth Blend is now in season. This coffee is full-bodied and rich with holiday flavors. It is dark, spicy and warming, with notes of cinnamon and chocolate, which permeate the blend, as well as nutmeg and clove. While the bagged beans are elusively popular, Bow Truss has had this blend available on pour-over in stores. On a cold Chicago day, it tastes just right.
Some of Bow Truss’ other popular blends include the Brazil Carmo de Minas, another pulped natural coffee with both fruity and nutty notes, and the barista-recommended Nicaragua Finca Los Congos Natural Pacamara (say that five times fast), a winey coffee with notes of malbec, plum and spice.
If you order your coffee to stay, you’ll sit, sip and notice décor that is slightly rustic and trendy without trying too hard. Shelved canoes house bags of beans. While initially there was no rationale behind the canoe, today, you’ll find one in each shop. You’ll also find a Multicade in Pilsen, exposed brick and chalkboard walls in River North and sleds and an antique letter tray-turned table in Lakeview.
If you do stay, enjoy the coffee and conversation; don’t get lost in your laptop and headphones. “It’s not a place where you have to camp out at,” Tadros says. “It’s a place where you go, recharge and go back out into the world.”
2934 N. Broadway St. (Lakeview)
406 N. Wells St. (River North)
1641 W. 18th St. (Pilsen)
Photos: Courtesy of Doejo